After the LoC ceasefire, the next move in the India-Pakistan chessboard is the olive branch being extended to India. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke recently of the necessity of India taking the first step, the Kashmir issue being the lone irritant to better Indo-Pakistani ties and indicated grant of access to resource-rich Central Asia if there was peace. The Pakistani COAS says that peace will elude the subcontinent until Kashmir is resolved, and that it is time to bury the past and move forward. He also adds that the onus for meaningful dialogue rested with India by creating a conducive environment, particularly in Kashmir. (He does not want to bury Kashmir but wants us to do so!). The Pakistan Foreign Minister says that Islamabad wants co-existence and win-win cooperation and not be a part of any regional conflict.
My personal reaction is sceptical pessimism. Pakistan and peace? In 70 years, it has not found peace with itself. It should do that first. Peace with India is later. So, what should be our reaction? While peace is welcome, India should never forget that we are dealing with Pakistan which says one thing and does another. Secondly, India-Pakistan peace is Pakistan’s requirement. Let them make the play. Do not get emotional. Deal with them on realpolitik. The first question we must ask is what has caused this sudden change of heart? The second question and a very important one is: Whom are we going to talk with? The selected government without power? The real power—the Army—which is under the hammer? The people of Pakistan? Or with all of them? The third question is what should be our stand in any future Indo Pak dialogue? What is the end state we seek? Can we bury the past from Pulwama to Mumbai to the Parliament attack to all those other gory ones? How do you bury Pakistan’s present reality? When Pakistan builds a fence along the Afghanistan border, across which it has traditionally sought strategic space, there is a new phenomenon emerging. That new phenomenon is best expressed and understood by what Pakistanis themselves say.
The Constitution is the supreme law and it can neither be suspended—not even for a minute—nor abrogated. Civilian democracy is the only form of constitutional governance; citizens’ fundamental rights have enforcement priority and any de facto domination or interference by the military establishment in our civilian democratic government is unconstitutional. https://www.dawn.com/news/1612470/culture-of-un-constitutionalism.
If the three main political parties have each failed to govern justly, efficiently and successfully the question arises: why? Apart from the prevailing political culture and specific failings of political leaders, the answer lies in the unconstitutional, undemocratic and obstructive structures of power that underpin a façade of democratic governance. The prevalence of “military security” over “human security” which undermines national security, national development and nation-building. https://www.dawn.com/news/1609666/saving-pakistan.
The Constitution clearly defines the functions of the army, namely to defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so… Even a cursory acquaintance with Pakistan’s history is enough to convey the extent of the military’s role in running the country, sometimes directly through coups that swept aside elected governments. At other times, it was enough to call the shots from behind weak civilian dispensations—the ‘civ-mil imbalance’ is a truism, not a figment of the imagination… The fact that several major civilian institutions and bodies are headed by uniformed personnel has further sharpened the perception of a ‘hybrid government’. https://www.dawn.com/news/1601200/militarys-role
ON NAWAZ SHARIF’S SPEECH
Nawaz Sharif’s no-holds-barred virtual speech at Gujranwala where he named names has once again shifted the battle lines: it is not the security establishment but its commander that is the target….It may not be the first time that the military leadership has been blamed for conspiring against civilian dispensations in this country, but Sharif’s tirade has more serious connotations. It is not a military ruler but a serving army chief against whom wrongdoing has been alleged. There has been no mincing of words. https://www.dawn.com/news/1586187/a-precarious-situation.
For over 70 years, the country has alternated between authoritarian military regimes and ineffective elected civilian rule. But there have been no fundamental changes to Pakistan’s political power structure. A small power elite has dominated the country’s political scene under civilian as well as military rule…The extractive nature of the state institutions has stunted the growth of an inclusive democratic process. https://www.dawn.com/news/1598642/crisis-of-pakistani-democracy
ON BETRAYAL OF PEOPLE
Few people in the world have been so consistently betrayed by their leaders, governments, political parties and security institutions as the people of Pakistan. They have been lied to; denied basic human rights, dignity and entitlements; robbed of essential human development resources to finance elite priorities and lifestyles; induced to look to the hereafter for justice, etc. https://www.dawn.com/news/1596985
ON RISING PRICES
In FY21, import of wheat and sugar to control skyrocketing prices of the commodities have played a major role in fuelling the overall import bill. However, the increase in imports of wheat, sugar and palm oil failed to provide any price relief to the masses……Sugar price saw an increase to Rs90-95 per kg from Rs85 per kg in the last week of December, following continuous increase in wholesale prices. https://www.dawn.com/news/1602504/no-let-up-in-food-price-hike-despite-massive-imports. Today, the price of sugar in Pakistan is 105-110 per kg (30% jump in three months).
The people of Bangladesh are better educated, healthier and wealthier than their Pakistani counterparts. Meanwhile, the former’s macroeconomy, as measured in GDP growth rates during the pandemic, foreign currency reserves and number of private banks operating in the country, is also far more stable and dynamic…the Bangladeshi state has, more or less since its inception, given greater priority to what we can broadly call ‘economic development’, and more specifically the health, education, employment and other human needs of its population. In contrast, the Pakistani state has dedicated a far greater chunk of resources to non-productive heads, defence most prominent of all. https://www.dawn.com/news/1613354/intertwined-fates
ON DEBT TRAP
We are not heading towards a debt trap; we are already in it. Last year…the country added Rs 4.3 trillion to its debt; that is equal to its total tax receipts. External debt went up by $17.8 billion over the last two years while total earnings from export are only $22bn or so. Our earnings from export have only grown by $6bn in 15 years while our external debt has increased by $78bn in the same period. So, what more of a trap do you need when every year your total indebtedness is increasing by an amount equal to your total tax receipts and when your foreign indebtedness has gone up by $17.8bn in two years, which alone is equal to 80% of your annual exports? https://www.dawn.com/news/1587425/depressing-outlook
Never in Pakistan’s history has a project been peddled to the people as a game changer the way that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been. The government is enthusiastic about the $60 billion worth of concrete carpeted highways, energy projects and special economic zones. Early harvest projects worth $19 bn have been completed, and CPEC is now in its second phase, the projects in its first phase have failed to usher in the level of prosperity that was promised to the people. https://www.dawn.com/news/1599988
Any analysis of the emerging scenario must be firmly grounded in strategic realities rather than in wishful thinking… there is now growing strategic divergence between Pakistan and the US because of the development of the Indo-US partnership as an essential element of the US policy of containment of China, on the one hand, and the deepening cooperation between Pakistan and China on the other … factors which will influence US policy on Pakistan are India’s economic weight with a GDP of $2.6 trillion, its increasing global political influence …and its position as the world’s largest democracy …By way of comparison, Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits with a GDP of only $285 billion, there is political instability and its journey as a functioning democracy has been interrupted several times in the past… the increased presence of Americans of Indian origin in powerful positions in the Biden administration may reinforce the trend of deepening cooperation between the two countries, thereby upsetting further the strategic balance in South Asia to Pakistan’s disadvantage. https://www.dawn.com/news/1610267/headwinds-from-the-us
ON WATER SHORTAGE
In the last 27 years, the country has never met its entire Kharif demand: out of its 74.683 maf requisite, the country, on an average, has had 64.573maf… an average shortage of 14 per cent…For 10 out of the 27 years, the shortages were above the average of -14%. For eight years, they were 10% or more. This year, as omens tell us, the country may break the previous record, at least for the early Kharif season — unless abnormal and unexpected rains lash the country or steep rise in temperatures help melt glaciers or snow. https://www.dawn.com/news/1613271/situationer-yearly-reminder-of-water-woes
Never before in the past 2-3 decades has such internalised soul searching gone on in Pakistan. All these opinions are from Dawn, in which views are guarded and urbane. Imagine the discourse on the streets and nukkads. There is not a single aspect of Pakistan which can be termed positive. Add radicalisation, insurgency, FATA, Waziristan, PDM, TTP, Water Shortage, FATF sanctions, IMF loan and all the other myriad issues which confront Pakistan. The emerging picture is bleak, despondent and hopeless for any Pakistani. If the state of debilitation due to coronavirus is added, collapse and anarchy is very much on the cards. It is against this ‘desperate’ backdrop that this olive branch has been extended. Peace with India is Pakistani requirement and not ours.
WHY THIS SUDDEN CHANGE OF HEART
If Pakistan’s economy is to revive, its security enabled, health conditions to be treated and to get out of the clutches of China and US, peace with India is mandatory. There is no way anyone will bail out Pakistan. Climate change, lack of water, depleting exports and industry, lack of jobs, burgeoning population and separatist forces will never let the economy revive. The alternative is to become a permanent colony of China. Even then, Pakistan cannot handle the double trouble from Afghanistan and India together. It has to mend fences with one at least. The change in heart is for survival of the Army as the sole proprietor of the bankrupt state. They are on the brink and they realise it.
WHOM ARE WE GOING TO TALK WITH?
Imran Khan’s government is a dummy with no power. He is continuing since the Army has no alternative even though Bilawal Bhutto is being cultivated and has broken ranks from the PDM to some extent. If we talk with the Army, India will be legitimising its role. In such a case any accommodation is only transactional and tactical. At the first opportunity, the India hating Pakistani Army will strike back or renege. Till such time the Army helms Pakistan, any truce is temporary. India’s best bet is to open channels of direct communication with the people of Pakistan. At present this is possible and feasible through vaccine diplomacy. For example, free vaccines for any Pakistani at any of our BOPs, could be tried out. Similarly, free vaccines for any resident of POK should be made available and be a precursor for any talks. We can also start talking with the dissatisfied segments of Pakistani society who are outside Pakistan. Also start speaking to the opposition parties and movement leaders in Pakistan. Widen the scope and discussion. Overall, India must start communicating with all three layers—people, government and the Army.
WHAT SHOULD BE OUR STAND?
At the outset, we need to marginalise the Pakistan Army. I know it is a tall order. Stop treating Pakistan like a military state. As far as Kashmir is concerned, our stand is simple. Pakistan should vacate it and return POK to India. That is what abrogation of article 370 was all about. Was it not? Pakistan should stop constructing dams on Indus in violation of the status of PoK. Chinese presence should be nullified. CPEC projects in POK should be stopped. Terror infrastructure should be dismantled in a verifiable manner. Hafeez Sayeed and Azhar Masood should be handed over to India. If these conditions are not met, we need not speak. In any case romantic initiatives like ‘Aman ki Asha’ or allowing Pakistanis into Bollywood or IPL should not even be contemplated. Trade with CARs or Afghanistan can wait. Safety of nuclear installations should also be on the agenda. In all this, expect and be prepared for trouble or collapse or anarchy in Pakistan. Let us not make any mistake. It is always around the corner whether Bajwa or Imran Khan like it or not. Might happen anytime or never. Pakistan, like cricket, is full of glorious uncertainties.
The end state that India seeks in any India-Pakistan dialogue or confrontation is restoration on ground the extent of the political map of India as per the provisions of reorganisation of the state of J&K into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh which was enacted in the Indian Parliament in August 2019. Till then, can there be peace? That is why the map of India is on the top.
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.
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INDIA REPATRIATES YOUTH FROM POK AT TITHWAL CROSSING POINT
On the night of 5th April, a youth inadvertently crossed the line of control into Karnah, Kupwara (J&K). The youth identified as Mausam son of Manzoor Ahmad from Lipa area of Kashmir under illegal occupation of Pakistan was kept by the Indian troops deployed along the line of control for the night with due care & Pakistani authorities were informed of the whereabouts of the child. Based on the interaction between the authorities of both sides on the hotline, the Indian authorities repatriated the youth to the Pakistani authorities from Tithwal crossing point as a humanitarian gesture. The youth was presented clothes and sweets, on return. On the occasion of repatriation, the representatives of civil administration, Karnah were present. The exchange took place at 1150 a.m. Indian standard Time on 7th April. Such inadvertent crossings have taken place earlier also due to close proximity of villages along line of control on either sides. However, the Indian side has always been prompt in returning the individuals keeping the humanitarian issue in mind.
That way Tithwal Crossing Bridge located on Kishanganga river has been acting as a point of peace between the two sides. It would be pertinent to highlight that the site is visited by lots of people from either sides and is emerging as tourist site especially after the recently agreed ceasefire between India and Pakistan. The peace and tranquility as a result of the agreement, is being appreciated by the civil population on either sides of line of control.
RAJNATH SINGH HOLDS BILATERAL TALKS WITH KAZAKH DEFENCE MINISTER
Discusses ways to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held bilateral talks with Defence Minister of Republic of Kazakhstan Lieutenant General Nurlan Yermekbayev in New Delhi on Friday. During the meeting, the two Ministers exchanged views to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation, including through training, defence exercises and capacity building. They agreed that both sides must look at the possibility of defence industrial collaboration of mutual interest. The Defence Minister of Kazakhstan thanked Rajnath Singh for the opportunity given to the Kazakh troops for deployment as part of the Indian battalion in United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Both Ministers also positively assessed the annual KAZIND Exercise.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar and other senior civil and military officials of Ministry of Defence were also present on the occasion. Lieutenant General Nurlan Yermekbayev is on an official visit to India from April 7th to 10th. He visited HQs 12 Corps at Jodhpur and the Longewala sector in Jaisalmer. The Kazakh Defence Minister is in India on the invitation of Rajnath Singh.
MADE IN CHINA: NOT IN A BATTLE PLEASE
The recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh is being avidly studied in think tanks and military academies over the world for its unusual lessons and the optimisation of disruptive technologies, particularly the success of Azerbaijan’s drones. However, another set of people are quietly studying the conflict even more closely—the global arms industry. Every conflict spurs arms sales. After the overwhelming and quick success of the US-led forces in Gulf War I, there was a long lineup for the latest weapons used in the war. The Saudis wanted F-15 fighters, Apache helicopters, Abrams M1A1 tanks, AWACS radar planes, Patriot missiles, multiple-launch rocket systems, Seahawk helicopters, and Bradley fighting vehicles. The Egyptians wanted Hawk missiles, M-60 tank upgrades, and F-16 fighters, while the Israelis negotiated for portable battlefield-navigation systems, upgrades for the F-15 fighter and the M-109 artillery piece, and more Patriot missiles. A similar interest in the weapon systems, particularly drones, deployed in this conflict is being shown today in cash-rich capitals of many nations.
However, nobody is taking the next flight to Beijing to close an arms deal, though the Chinese have a reputation for being the cheapest in the market. The reason is evident, but hushed. For all their claims of technological prowess, the Chinese systems have failed to deliver. China commenced with large scale sales of drones to many countries as early as 2011. It was a ‘supply shock’, and countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria obtained them. The prices were unbelievably low—both for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). However, the performance of these inexpensive platforms leaves a lot to be desired. The export versions are regularly falling out of the sky. Algeria has reported a series of accidents in the last six years with the Chinese-supplied CH-4 UCAVs. The CH-4 is produced by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. It is one of the Rainbow series of aircraft built by the state-owned corporation. In Algeria, repeated crashes of CH-4 were reported near Tindouf, Bir Rogaa and Ain Oussera airbases.
Jordan had to put on sale Chinese-supplied UAVs after they failed on all parameters. After purchasing with much fanfare in 2016, within three years, the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) had put its Chinese-made six CH-4B UAVs up for sale in June 2019, indicating disappointment with their performance. The RJAF had acquired them in 2016 along with AR-1 laser-guided missiles and FT-9 guided bombs. In June 2020, a Chinese drone crashed in Cambodia, in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district. It was a Chinese BZK-005, a high altitude UAV used primarily as a long range reconnaissance aircraft, designed by Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics and Harbin Aircraft Industry Company. Within China, their much hyped ‘Predator’ unmanned helicopter developed by Hangzhou Star Low Altitude Helicopter Development Company and hailed as one of the “trailblazers” in the development of China’s drone industry suddenly dived towards the ground and crashed at air show in Hangzhou in October 2020.
The key Chinese system in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict was the WM-80 Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL), sold to Armenia in 1999 with great promises of devastating fires and annihilation of enemy forces. The MRL system was developed by Norinco, the China Ordnance Industries Group Corporation Limited, on Chinese designed Type 83 273 mm. It has a modular design, with two launcher boxes each containing four ready-to-launch rocket rounds on a TAS-5380 8×8 truck chassis. It failed to make any impact on the opposing Azerbaijan forces. In short, the Chinese weapon platforms have proved undependable even in mildly contested environments, leave aside wars with dense and unpredictable Air Defence environment.
There are numerous reliability and supplies issues with China. China signs agreements for a certain variant of a weapon platform but delivers a lower version with many changes. Often the buyer has no choice but to accept since the requirements are urgent, as in case of Algeria who purchased the lower variant as their border situation was worsening with Libya, Mali and Niger. Pakistan has similar compulsions, not to mention a worsening economy. China is also known to avoid providing spare parts and after sales service. Reports indicate that instead of adhering to the original contract, Chinese middlemen keep putting forth new options for better platforms, and make sales pitch simultaneously to rival factions and groups, particularly in Africa. Maybe the Chinese will improve their weapon platforms in near future, and offer some quality along with quantity. Even without quality, there would always be some buyers from the cash-strapped regions. However, for anywhere else where ethics and human lives matter, no ‘Made in China’ crashing drones and dysfunctional systems in a battlefield.
INDIA, MALDIVES CALL FOR GLOBAL COOPERATION AGAINST TERRORISM
First meeting of India-Maldives Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism; the two nations strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms.
The first meeting of the Joint Working Group on counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism and de-radicalisation between India and the Maldives was held in New Delhi on Thursday. The Indian side was led by Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, and the Maldivian side was led by Foreign Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed. The meeting was held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere that symbolises the time-tested and good neighbourly ties between India and the Maldives and the energy, ambition and scale acquired by our bilateral relations under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
India and the Maldives strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including cross-border terrorism and emphasised the need for strengthening international cooperation to combat terrorism in a comprehensive and sustained manner. Both sides reviewed threats posed by terrorist entities that are under UN sanctions and emphasised the need for concerted action against all terrorist networks.
They underlined the urgent need for all countries to take immediate, sustained, verifiable and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under their control is used for terrorist attacks on others and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks. Referring to the joint statement issued during the state visit of Prime Minister Modi to the Maldives in June 2019, the two sides recognized the critical threats that terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation pose to peace and security in the region.
India appreciated the clear-eyed stance taken by the Government of President Solih to counter such threats and the concrete steps taken by the Maldives in this regard. The two sides also exchanged views on various areas of cooperation in the sphere of counter-terrorism including countering radicalization and violent extremism, combating financing of terrorism, preventing exploitation of the internet for terrorism and violent extremism, information sharing, capacity building and establishing institutional linkages between police, security forces, Customs, Immigration and other relevant agencies.
Further, the two sides exchanged views on enhancing bilateral cooperation against narcotics and drug trafficking. The discussions were also informed by the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented to countering terrorism, radicalisation and violent extremism.
Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation that will include assistance and capacity building for the security and law enforcement agencies and other relevant agencies of the Maldives as well as collaboration and the exchange of best practices in the areas of counter-terrorism, preventing and countering of violent extremism and de-radicalisation. The two sides also discussed cooperation in multilateral fora. The Maldivian delegation will also visit the training facilities of National Security Guard and the Bureau of Police Research and Development during its stay in New Delhi.
Indian Army Chief Naravane proceeds on a five-day visit to Bangladesh
Continuing with the excellent tradition of strong bilateral and defence ties between India and Bangladesh, General M.M. Naravane, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) has started a five day visit to Bangladesh from 8th to 12th April. General Naravane’s visit comes in the midst of Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations which mark 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh, made possible by the historic leadership of the Bôngobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and heroics of the Mukti Bahini who fought shoulder to shoulder with Indian Armed Forces.
The Army Chief paid tributes to the martyrs of the Liberation War by laying a wreath at the Shikha Anirban on Thursday. This was followed by one to one meetings with the three Service Chiefs of the Bangladesh’s Armed Forces. General Naravane is also scheduled to visit the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi, where he will pay tributes to Bangladesh’s founding father. The COAS will interact with Bangladesh’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on 11th April at Bangladesh Army’s Multipurpose Complex in Dhaka where he will attend a seminar on UN Peace Support Operations and deliver a keynote address on “Changing Nature of Global Conflicts: Role of UN Peacekeepers”
General MM Naravane is also scheduled to interact with the Force Commanders of the United Nations Missions in Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic and the Deputy Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutanese Army on 12th April. He will also attend the closing ceremony of Exercise Shantir Ogrosena, a multilateral UN-mandated counterterrorism exercise comprising the Armed Forces of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka along with observers from the US, UK, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia among others. The Chief will also witness the innovations of the Bangladeshi Armed Forces personnel during the Hardware Display. The Chief of the Army Staff will interact with the members of Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support and Training Operations (BIPSOT) during the last leg of his visit. This visit will further deepen the bilateral relationships between the two Armies and act as a catalyst for closer coordination and cooperation between the two countries on a host of strategic issues.
Kazakhstan Defence Minister visits India for bilateral talks
Minister of Defence of Republic of Kazakhstan Lieutenant General Nurlan Yermekbayev is on an official visit to India from April 7th to 10th. The Kazakh Defence Minister arrived in Jodhpur on Wednesday and is scheduled to travel to Jaisalmer, New Delhi and Agra for meetings and visit to defence establishments. Lieutenant General Nurlan Yermekbayev will hold a bilateral meeting with Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh in New Delhi today. This will be the first meeting after Lieutenant General Nurlan Yermekbayev was re-appointed as Defence Minister of Kazakhstan. The two Ministers had last met in Moscow on 5th September 2020 on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting. The Kazakh Defence Minister is in India on the invitation of Raksha Mantri.
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